Book 10: Chapter 04

The Wyrm and the Keep

BOOK: 10
GM: Bradford (from James’s notes)
Transcribed by: Bradford
Date: January 22, 2023
In Game date: September 2012
Episode: 54 (128)

Part 01: Virgil Gugasian

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0001.pngOur Jaunt into Jotun just kept getting better. We fell out of the sky. We fought some giants. We confirmed our worst suspicions about what the Blackthorn tree was going to be used for (being used to infect a god-damned world tree). And this whole pocket of existence was doing crazy shit to two of us for seemingly no reason.

Fergus was becoming more like a hunter, going full feral. Lon Chaney werewolf style.

Meanwhile, I found myself inside of a cave around a fire, talking to a Frost Giant Shaman refugee, making promises I only assumed I could keep because I had what I can only describe as a full-body migraine. It was only when the shaman stopped talking that I could take a moment to meditate and figure out what was going on and how fucked up I was.

Ever since I discovered my magic, my kleptomancy as Jack keeps calling it, I have been something of a magical sponge. I draw in power from my environment. Little bits at a time. When I am exposed to someone else’s spells, I open the valve up or something and drink up that power, filling my reservoir. Or some fucking water analogy.

When we came to Jotunheim, I kept a single spell from Sally the Salamander held in reserve to protect me against the deathless cold. I guess I must have left the valve open or something when I did that. Maybe the ambient magic here was so abundant that I was drawing on it on reflex to preserve Sally’s spell for later use. Maybe my body saw a new power and thought it would give the power a try. It could also be the field of the world tree itself and we were somehow walking on its roots.

Whatever the reason, it meant I was feeling really weird and weirder by the hour.

When my meditation reached five-hundred-one-thousand, I opened my eyes. Our party sat around a roaring fire, drinking up so we could continue our journey. The Frost Giants sat opposite of us; the Shaman Arnbjorn was carving some small stones like she was whittling wood or something.

Hiroko was eying me and Fergus, who was also meditating. I swear that woman wanted to cut him in half with her eyes, and she could do it if she cared enough. But I also knew it wasn’t out of malice; it was out of caution.

I still felt weird, so I said something.

“We must be getting close to the world tree. I can’t feel my feet.”

Kerouac leaned his snow rabbit head and spoke in his reedy faerie voice, “Do your arms feel too warm? If so, that’s a sign of hypothermia.”

“Not hypothermia. This place is playing hell with my magic.”

“Perhaps your power has finally asked for a price.” David Clay mused from within his parka. The Golem was right.

“That sounds about right. I don’t know if I want to vomit or drink up all the power in this place.”

“Are you going to wolf out or something too?” Hiroko asked, eyeing me now like she was eying Fergus.

“No.” I replied, “But I don’t think I will be thinking much from here on. Point me in the right direction. I trust you all to make better decisions than me.”

“Great,” Hiroko said, “Another liability. Is there anyone else who might lose their mind today?”

David looked to her and must have decided to level with her, “I have the potential to lose control, but that shouldn’t be an issue given our opposition. We would all be dead before I went berserk.”

“That isn’t reassuring.” She said.

“I wasn’t trying to be. Just realistic.” David looked to Fergus, “Fergus, can you still fight?”

Fergus nodded like a Tibetan monk, his mind in some other place, “Point me at the enemy. I’m good.”

I answered a similar question by fieldstripping my shotgun and reloading it in less than a minute.

“I’m good.” I said, “Just messed up a little.”

I listened to the crack of the fire as I looked at Arnbjorn carving her stones. The crackles started sounding like the White Album, but I didn’t tell my allies that.

“What is Arnbjorn doing?” I asked.

“She has been carving those stones for half an hour,” David said.

Arnbjorn finished her whittling and began to chant softly into the stones and the fire. The White Album turned to a strange keening sound.

“Are you hearing that, or am I hallucinating?” I asked.

“Almost sounds like microphone feedback,” Hiroko said.

Good, it wasn’t just me.

The sound ended when strange people-shaped shades coalesced around the stones and faded into the runes the shaman had carved. Arnbjorn handed each of us one of them. We decided not to argue and took one cautiously. Even Kerouac with his small bunny limbs.

I took mine and felt a pulse of power through me.

Then Arnbjron spoke. In perfect English.

“I will no longer rely on the dubious veracity of a trickster to translate my words.”

“Dubious? Hardly.” Kerouac scoffed as he turned back into his pooka form, a cross between a chimpanzee and some furry Star Wars alien. He took the stone and a piece of string and made it into a necklace that fit perfectly around his neck when he changed back into an animal.

“Translation stone?” Hiroko said,” Good move. It will make this easier.”

I looked up to the shaman, now able to converse, and felt compelled to speak.

“Oh good, you can understand me. I am going to repeat what I said so you get this right. I swear on my power that we will do everything in our power to stop Fullvragg and destroy the Blackthorn tree that plagues this land. I also have a mission to rescue Erik Laufey, but that is my own concern.”

“The son of Loki saved my prince and myself. I will do what I can to aid you.” Arnbjorn said.

I looked down to the stone to find a place for it in my pocket. Instead, I found I had already dropped it. The runes on it were gone, the stone now smooth again.

“Great,” I said.

I decided to stop thinking and let everyone else do the talking and thinking.

Part 02: Fergus Mac Cormaic

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0002.pngJotunheim was bringing out my wyld side. Making me more dangerous. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep my head, but it would have to be long enough for me to get back to my girls.

After making his little speech, Virgil went on autopilot and was either meditating to staring into space but clearly still aware of things. Whatever he was going through was at least as intense as what I was enduring in this place.

“If we are ready to go, we should go,” I said.

“I agree.” Hiroko said, her death gaze finally no longer on me, “We should make haste if we can.”

“Are we close to our prey?” I asked with a little too much eagerness for my taste.

“Yes.” Arnbjorn said.

“Can you show us?” David asked. He produced a piece of paper and a piece of charcoal instead of a pencil. I guess it was easier than drawing with a pencil when you have Ben Grimm fingers.

Arnbjorn took a few minutes and drew a map of the path before us. The stones didn’t allow her to write in English, so she wrote some runes that she later translated for David to mark up.

It was a passable map of a trail going along a winding path across some big expanses and into some mountains.

Arnbjorn finished by going over the map with us.

“Fulvragg was last at seen going to a keep at the base of the world tree with the sapling. The Darugr’s Cairn beyond would be the perfect place to plant it and infect this realm.”

“How do we get there?” I asked.

“We must go to Uttir. He is a dangerous warrior who was exiled by his brother-in-law, king Olvig. He values only strength and hates all non-Jotuns, but he owes me his life. I will discharge that debt with him, and hopefully, I will be able to gain his aid against Fullvragg. He would be a powerful ally. He is the Thane who controls that keep”

“Where is Uttir?”

“In the keep beyond the frozen lake Tyrin to the east.”

“How do we get to the keep?”

“The most direct path takes us through hostile territory.” She said.

“More Mold Giants?” Hiroko asked.

“And those things that hunt us.” She confirmed,

“Is there another way?” I asked.

“There is now only one way to approach the keep due to an avalanche.”

My question struck a nerve because she gritted her teeth as she chose her words.

“Years ago, some mortals came to Jotunheim and blew up the only other pass to the keep. An old wizard and a son of the Gallows God led that raid. Several of my clan perished in that avalanche. I have sworn blood vengeance on those who were responsible.”

Virgil looked at her like a deer in headlights. I don’t know what he knew, but he clearly knew something but didn’t say anything. Arnbjorn clocked his gaze, but he just nodded.

“We can look into that matter to make reparations for that wrong.” Virgil said with wobbly words, “But we will handle that when we finish this.”

Arnbjorn replied simply by nodding and continuing.

“But there is another way. A secret way. A way that no giant can navigate. Humans like you might make it. It is dangerous, though.”

“We’ll take it,” I said without hesitation.

“You haven’t heard what it entails.” She said, “The dangers.”

“We have a tree to hunt.” It made sense in my head. Stupid Jotunheim.

“Can you guide us?” David asked.

“I will guide you and do what I can to stop Fullvragg.” Arnbjorn said.

I couldn’t help but look over at the Prince. He was bigger than me but still a child.

“What about the Prince?”

“I will leave Prince Ulfur here with Bjarnhildr.” She looked over behind us, “You can come out now.”

My hunter’s instincts almost got the best of me as a huge fucking bear breathed its hot breath on my neck from a few inches away. I must have leaped because I found myself perched on the side of the cave close to the ceiling, ready to pounce.

Then Arnbjorn continued.

“She is fierce, and none will take the prince from her.”

Hiroko went for her sword while David and Kerouac took a step back.

“Dear me,” Kerouac said.

Virgil, in his stupor, just slowly turned in place.

We found ourselves staring at a pack of young bear cubs and their titanic mother. The bears we saw earlier were much larger up close. The mama bear Bjarnhildr made a grizzly look like a chihuahua.

Arnbjorn spoke to Bjarnhildr like a person, but instead of English, she spoke in imitations of bear sounds. It looked silly, but the bear seemed to understand.

Bjarnhildr the Bear responded to whatever she said by rubbing her huge bear head up against the shaman and licking the prince.

Virgil must have been reading minds because he said what was on mine.

“It’s like a giant dog…” Virgil said. I think he wanted to scratch them or something but thought better of it when Arnbjorn and the Mama stared at us with a look that said not to touch.

Arnbjorn then handed another rune to Prince Ulfur, and the child giant transformed into a bear cub, joining the rest as they went into another room.

I leaped down from my perch and took a breath.

“That’s a nice trick.” I said, “Let’s go hunt a tree.”

Part 03: Hiroko Noshimuri

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0003.pngStuck in the land of frost giants with two or possibly three people going bonkers and hunting a demon mold tree was not my idea of fun. I would rather have reenacted John McClane’s opening scene in Die Hard With a Vengeance with tattoos instead of a sign. It would have been safer.

A kind of obscure reference, but it was the most unsafe thing I could think of on short notice.

I couldn’t trust my friend. That was the worst of it. I wasn’t sure if Fergus was going to be able to keep it together or if he would become a danger to himself. Virgil not-his-real-name was also getting weird. He was using some kind of power that supposedly was keeping him from freezing to death. But no telling what the magic here was going to change him into. Maybe he would gouge out his own eye or something.

My oath as a shinigami was clear on what I needed to do in any case.

Arnbjorn the Shaman led us across more damned tundra. Everyone else slogged through the snow while my own grace and training allowed me to run on top of it and scout ahead. After a while it became impossible to pass ourselves or to know exactly how far anything was. The scale of things made it all messed up.

Our only discernible point of reference was Yggdrassil, the World Tree. Everyone seemed to see it differently. For me it looked like the largest cherry blossom tree, but it sometimes looked like a massive redwood or something. It reminded me of looking up at the Chrysler Building or the Freedom they were building downtown before I left New York. The size was daunting and embodied the name “Skyscraper.”

But once you knew where it was, you could find wherever you wanted to go.

We headed towards the tree and the cold bit at us until we found a gapping maw between two parts of the icy terrain. I don’t know how far down it went, but I couldn’t see a bottom.

As the shaman described, the ice bridge was a long sheet of ice lodged between the cliff edge we stood on and the cliff beyond. Lucky for us, it looked frozen to the sides of the canyon and was about a person across.

I felt a bump in my throat as someone said, “Remember, don’t look down.”

I looked down. Shit…

“I think I can get across this, but I am not sure about the rest of you.” I said earnestly.

David Clay stepped forward and took a look at the problem before us. He rubbed his chin and seemed to take it all in.

“There is an easy solution,” David said and opened his pack of climbing gear.

David stepped to the start of the bridge and changed. More specifically, his feet expanded into a wider shape like snow shoes. He stepped onto the bridge, and whatever slipperiness seemed to vanish as the new feet redistributed his weight.

I guess being a golem is handy as well as badass sometimes.

David took slow, ponderous steps across the bridge and periodically shoved climbing stakes into the bridge. Being a golem, he shoved them in by hand without needing a hammer or anything and slid a rope through the opening of each one.

It took him a while to get across, but he did. The feet did double duty to stabilize him when the wind kicked up, and snow began to flake down and freeze upon the bridge.

We all let out a sigh of relief when David reached the other side and put down the last stake. He looped the rope around himself and took a step further onto the cliff, using his own enormous size to stabilize. David nodded in acknowledgment and waved us to start our journey across.

Before we could ask Arbjorn how she was going to get across, the shaman turned into a normal-sized Eagle and flew across the span. She landed, changed back into her Frost Giant self in moments, and helped anchor the other end of the rope for the rest of us. The size of the eagle, combined with her speed, told us she couldn’t turn into anything bigger to ferry us across. Damn it.

“I’ll go first.” Fergus said and took a step forward.

He attached himself to the rop using a carabiner and guided himself across the bridge as the wind picked up. If it wasn’t for the rope, he might have fallen. But, his speed allowed him to get across without much issue.

Fergus let out a breath of relief and waved at the rest of us.

I was about to help Virgil across when I found the guy already on the bridge, using the rope to guide himself like a pro. He just walked forward one step at a time, following Fergus’ footprints in the snow. Smart. I don’t know if it was some kind of training or experience or if he was just too fucked up to care about the danger involved. Kerouac rode on his back in his Pooka form, using an ape-like hand to grab the rope and stabilize him.

As soon as Virgil was across, I decided not to wait.

I jumped onto the rope and ran across it, doing in a quarter of the time as the rest of them. I jumped down and landed next to Fergus without disturbing the snow mound.

“Show off.” He said, his human side happily still visible.

I smirked at him, “I don’t want to hear any more shit about ninja. Shinobi have no honor.”

“Virgil, are you alright?” David asked.

Virgil just stood staring off into space like he had been before. He looked back the way he came and just shrugged. He then looked to his watch.

“We are making good time. Let’s go.” Virgil said, and we continued towards our Chrysler Building.

Part 04: David Clay

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0004.pngThe curious thing about Jotunheim wasn’t the endless winter, or the scale. It was that it was not uninhabited.

Along our way, we saw various animals in the distance. Wolf packs keeping their distance and running away from the danger they must have smelled at our destination. A heard of eight-legged horses of black and white coats galloped as well. Not surprising given the environs.

The frozen lake Tyrin was right where Arnbjorn indicated. A massive oblong sheet of ice dotted with piles of snow. We could see the keep on the other side, but the sheer scale of it left one conclusion.

“We must cross the lake directly.” I said.

I knelt down and inspected the sheet of ice. It was translucent enough that I could see the water beyond that was probably colder than any earth water. There were fish in those waters, somehow surviving. But, with them as reference, I could discern several key details as I pressed down on the ice.

“The ice is thin in places, but with the scale of this place should be thick enough to support us.”

“Is there any way we could go around?” Hiroko said, “You don’t go out on frozen lakes.”

“No time.” I said, “We must reach the keep.”

“You want to just walk across?”

I looked around at the environment. The edge of the lake had trees. I went over to one and checked it over like I had the ice.

“Solid fibers. This will do.” I said.

I pushed the tree over and it crashed onto the snow. I must have startled my companions because I could see them staring at me.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing.” Hiroko said.

“Help with this.”

I ripped the branches off and used my small hatchet to carve the tree. I bound the parts I took with rope and when my companions saw what I was doing, they came to help.

Over the course of an hour we made, in a rather crude fashion, a sled with flattened skies on the bottom. It was not a work of art, but it would serve its purpose.

“We can ride this across.” I said, urging my companions to get into the sled.

One of Jotunheim’s denizens decided then was the time to search for food by the lake. A massive stag walked onto the ice. Then it began to run.

Fergus followed before I could grab him.

Part 05: Fergus Mac Cormaic

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0005.pngMaking a sled out of a tree was a good idea. It unnerved us all to see David knock over a tree with his bare fucking hands, but whatever. Golems are known to do that.

I immediately picked up on his plan and loved the big guy for it. My craftsman side finally took back its hold of me as we carved the wood and bound the pieces.

I say carve, but I really mean David ripping the tree apart like it was a piece of bread or something. Handy given the circumstances, but terrifying nonetheless.

We managed what would have taken all day in an hour or so between my craftiness and a few extra pairs of hands and blades.

The Sled was nothing to write home about, but it would get us across the lake.

I looked on and smiled with pride as I took a drink of water from my canteen. This build was just what I needed to recenter myself.

Then I saw it. It was right in front of me. Brown eyes on a frame of muscle and flesh. Antlers like a collection of spears interwoven with each other. We locked eyes, and I smelled its fear.

The stag ran. Then it wasn’t a stag. It was prey.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to chase it.

We could use the food. I could use the thrill of a good hunt. It would take a while to cook, but it would fill our bellies and warm our blood.

I didn’t even notice I was on the lake until the stag started outrunning me. The ice was slick, but the prey would still be mine.

Hiroko ran across the lake and grabbed my arm. Stupid girl thought she could stop me.

“Ferg, snap out of it!” She said.

Then the ice shattered as a claw emerged from beneath the ice. A form of scales snatched my prey and dragged it under the water in moments. It was either the smell disappearing or the sight of it going underwater that snapped me out of it.

We were not alone on this lake.

“Shit!” I shouted as I looked around for whatever the hell that was.

Hiroko’s sword was already out of its sheath as my club came out. I walked back to reposition and get a better sense of the surroundings.

Hiroko walked further onto the ice and searched below her.

David and the others caught up with me in the sled, telling me to get back with the rest of them. Go nowhere alone.

I couldn’t see the thing exactly, but I could sense it. Slithering beneath the surface. A fellow hunter looking for its moment. This was going to be fun, indeed.

The moment was snatched by Hiroko when she stabbed into the ice next to her. A screech bellowed from beneath the ice as a form burst out next to her.

It wasn’t exactly a snake. Snakes don’t have arms ending in clawed hands with opposable thumbs. They also don’t have rows and rows of dagger-like teeth it displayed to the swordswoman in a display of power.

“What the fuck is that?” I asked.

“A lindwyrm,” Arbjorn shouted, “stay back!”

I answered by jumping onto the sled and looking at David.

“David!” I shouted, “Fastball special!”

Part 06: Hiroko Noshimuri

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0006.pngI stood with Zanpakuto at the ready, keeping my balance as I stared at the monster before me.

Arbjorn’s call gave it a name. Lindwyrm.

It didn’t to me.

The Lindwyrm slithered across the ice like a snake. It began to circle me, my previous stab bleeding.

I sensed its strategy.

Knock me down. Drag me beneath. Freeze me, drown me, or both. It would do the same for my allies one by one.

Not today.

I focused power into my blade. Power to protect and defend.

I made the first move and slashed.

The Lindwyrm slithered and snapped towards me. My blade met its claws and fangs and sparks of power flew. If it had been a normal sword, it would have shattered. But not Zanpakuto.

I dodged the wyrm’s bites and sidestepped. I followed through and slashed it across the side, making another screech.

The Lindworm tried to trip me. But I was faster.

I leaped over the creature’s tail and sliced across it again.

This would be a challenge.

The beast tried to retreat to the water, but I put my sword in front of it and slashed it back onto the ice.

Then Fergus showed up riding on the sled.

He had changed his magical shillelagh into a harpoon and was looking for his white whale.

I took the cue and slashed at the Lindwyrm again, repositioning the beast’s back to Fergus.

To the Lindwyrm’s credit, it held off my blows pretty well for a twenty-foot snake thing.

Then Fergus leaped into the air with his harpoon and screamed as he stabbed it down. Fergus’ harpoon went through the Lindwyrm and into the ice, pinning the creature to the ice.

The creature screeched again, blood coming from its maw.

I decided to put an end to its misery and slashed again.

My slash went clean through its neck, and the Lindwyrm stopped. Its head fell off onto the frozen lake and slid across the ice.

Within moments, the deep cold of Jotunheim began freezing the body and the blood before it could coagulate.

I swung my sword to clean off the blood and sheathed it.

“Everyone alright?” I asked.

“No injuries,” David confirmed.

Virgil got off the sled in his stupor. He walked cautiously to the Lindwyrm and stared at the massive beast’s claws.

“Far out…” Virgil said in a tone I normally associated with potheads.

He took out his shotgun and fired a slug into the body and the severed head for good measure. No sense in taking chances here.

Then, Virgil shot the base of the Lindwyrm’s claws and took the sharp things. He wrapped them in some canvas and stowed them in his bag.

With the Lindwyrm on the lake, no other creatures approached us. We were clear to head to Uttir’s Keep.

Part 07: David Clay

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0007.pngOur journey across the rest of the lake was much easier than the start. With the Lindwyrm dead, its smell and sight must have scared off any other predators in the area. The sound of the wind was the only sound we heard as the sled passed over the surface of the frozen lake Tyrin.

We navigated using Uttir’s keep as a visual landmark, sliding towards it only for it to grow bigger. It wasn’t until we reached the lake’s shore that we realized not only that we had reached our destination but also the size of the keep was not what we were expecting.

The keep reminded me of the historical images I had seen of old Viking mead halls, though from a tribe neither Saxon nor Visigoth and about ten times as big. The hall was fashioned out of stone, what I assumed golden wood from the world tree itself, and what looked like cold blue ice. Carved into the structure were runes and icons of dragons and wolves.

Before we arrived, it probably was a place of security and merriment for all who lived inside. The halls would be filled with songs and drink.

When we arrived there, we found only death. A line of corpses lay frozen in the snow trailing towards the front hall.

Above it all was a cloud of black spores, further confirming my companions’ fears.

“Looks like the right place,” Fergus said.

I looked over the battlefield and found evidence of magic. Broken walls. Telltale black marks from lightning strikes. Some of the various bodies of the mold giants smoldered and lay charred.

“They burned them?” Virgil asked in his haze.

“The only way to stop the spread of the spores.” I confirmed, “We mentioned it in the briefing.”

Virgil blinked, looking unable to think clearly, “I should have brought more fire.”

Hiroko appeared next to us with her sword at the ready, but not drawn. She tilted her head in a direction to draw our gaze to a pile of giants before the front entrance.

A frost giant lay against the wall, breathing shallowly. He was dressed in the same furs and armor of the other giants, but was covered in gore and burns. He was the last one standing.

“A survivor.” I confirmed, “He doesn’t look infected.”

“It’s Uttir!” Arnbjorn cried.

I immediately ran to the Frost Giant, who raised his axe towards me as I got close. Uttir was injured but still able to fight.

“Stay away…” Uttir said.

I raised my hands to show they were empty.

“We are not with Fulveragg. We are here to help.” I said.

Arnbjorn walked forward into Uttir’s view, and it was enough for him to lower his axe.

I knelt next to Uttir and examined his wounds. Cuts, bruises, and a fractured hand. His Frost Giant resilience would heal the wounds, but his cuts were exposed to the black air around us.

I reached into my backpack for the provisions I had prepared and began treating his wounds as I had practiced.

“What are doing?” Uttir asked.

“Disinfecting your wound and applying anti-fungal cream. It should protect you from the spores.” I said. I hoped that the enchantment Arbjorn’s runestone provided could translate modern medicine into the ancient language.

Uttir looked to Arnbjorn, who cautiously approached.

“Come to collect your debt, crone?” Uttir asked, “A little late.”

“We stand at cross-purposes.” She said, “These mortals are no ally to Fulveragg.”

I used a lot of bandages on his wounds, but I had packed as much as I could carry, so it was more than enough.

“What happened here?” I asked Uttir.

Uttir gathered his breath and considered his response.

“My bastard brother’s weakness brought this calamity upon us. A blackthorn sapling is up in the Dragur’s Cairn beyond the keep.”

“Has he breached the tree’s roots?” Arbjorn asked.

“He has.” Uttir said, “Yggdrasil lays exposed. We must stop it.”

“That’s what we are here to do,” Fergus said.

Uttir looked to Arnbjorn and snarled with contempt, “Please do not leave my thanes to the rot’s mercy. Avenge me, you bitch.”

“We mean to stop Fulveragg. Will you come with us?” She asked.

Uttir barely managed to stand.

“I am dead anyway. I will go to Valhalla with the blood of my enemies.”

Our eyes moved to a stone staircase beyond the keep. It wound along the side of the mountain. Completely exposed to the elements.

“No way that is unguarded,” Hiroko said.

I looked to the keep and surrounding area. The Cairn lay in a valley against the cliff’s edge.

From my coat pocket, Kerouac looked up in his snow bunny form along with me.

“There might another way.” I said.

Kerouac purred.

“I have an idea.” We said simultaneously.

Part 08: Hiroko Noshimuri

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0008.pngI would not run from my duty to save the innocent, so I had to do the hard job. I put on a gas mask and walked with Uttir and Kerouac into the keep.

The keep was big. Guggenheim museum big, at the least.

There were tables, chairs, and banners of all sorts. Decorations of monster heads mounted on the wall I think.

The decorations were all broken now. In their place were piles of frost-giant corpses. You could tell which ones had been infected because of the black mold that grew on them. The ones who fought them off had been ripped apart.,

For every tattooed frost giant we found dead, a dozen others had clearly been corrupted by the mold of Sebassis lying beside them. Uttir’s clan had died fighting.

The black cloud of spores loomed above us. My only protection was the gas mask I wore as we had prepared. Kerouac had a similar, smaller mask of some kind. I could only hope it was enough. I didn’t want to have to fight a faerie mold zombie.

“Are you sure this is going to work?” I asked the small rabbit.

“It will work.” Kerouac replied, “I’m here.”

With my shinigami training, the darkness was my greatest armor. I was invisible here until I attacked. It served us well as we passed the charred bodies of the frost giants.

We reached the stairs and made one last check of my weapons. Zanpakuto was up to the challenge as I drew him from his scabbard and readied him. I also made sure my backup weapon was ready. The shotgun I had prepared with dragon rounds.

The stairs were hard to climb because they were, like the keep, big. Twice as tall as regular stairs. They reminded me of the platforms I used at the gym for step-ups, only made of smoothed stone.

We went up the side of the mountain and were greeted with a view of Jotunheim off to the side. The landscape was beautiful and the aura of Yggdrasil appeared to me as cherry blossoms floating in the wind, disappearing into the snow.

But it was also really far down, so I focused on the stairs.

These stairs were exposed. Not even a damned handrail. This route was dangerous.

If we were unlucky, this was a suicide mission. But it was the right thing to do.

Halfway up, I was beginning to wonder if we had got it wrong. Then the guards showed themselves.

They were pack of wolves of dark red fur, but larger than even the dire wolves I had seen at museums. Properly sized for being Frost Giant pets and for swallowing Japanese ladies like myself whole.

These wolves were even worse in that they were covered in black mold. It meant they would not tire to track us and would seek to bind us to the tree’s will.

I did my part of the plan by attacking the first one I saw. Then Uttir did his by running back down the stairs. Perfect.

Part 09: Kerouac

The best kind of plans are ones that involve distractions and misdirection. Make noise in one place and attack the enemy from the side. Mortal chivalrists will complain of its dishonor, but I prefer it. It is both more fun and healthier.

When I saw the open-air stare case and the possibility of guards on them, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I wanted to use a similar approach to what I took with the Lindwyrm. Hiroko couldn’t see it, but I probably saved her life during the monster fight by making the poor thing’s eyes into a disco.

Hiroko started our plan by attacking the guards. In this case, that was a pack of icky black mold zombie wolves. Ew…

Her own power allowed her to attack from the shadows and immediately drew their attention.

I worked my power immediately. I set a glamour that made Uttir disappear, and in his place was a simulacrum running for his life.

Uttir stared daggers at me as he hugged the side of the mountain. It took a while to convince him, but we managed. The brute had enough sense to pause at my raised paw as the wolves took the bait.

One-half of the pack chased the glamour down the stairs, into the keep, and out towards the lake. The other half of them engaged Hiroko, trying to slow her down and surround her. It was only when this second group was in position that I swung my paw in a downward signal.

Uttir smiled and rushed towards the flanking wolves with a mighty kick. Thankfully for us, Sebassis’ mold did not imbue intelligence.

By the time Uttir was noticed, Hiroko had cut down a wolf and slashed at another. Uttir laid his axe into the face of a wolf and punched another over the side.

At some point, one of them ran for me. I changed my position and responded with another glamour.

The poor dogs pounced each other and were knocked over the side, screeching as they went down.

Our distraction for David had worked perfectly.

Part 10: Fergus Mac Cormaic

DFA_ECR_Log_1004_0010.pngA hunter stalks its prey from stealth. It uses a lure to draw them out and then pounce. Hiroko, Kero, and Uttir did their part perfectly, making whoever was in the Cairn look to the right.

While they did that, the rest of us climbed up the left side of the mountain. It was a hell of a slow climb, but between David being able to stab footholds directly into the rock face with bare hands and my experience, we made it up. The guards on the stairs never saw us.

To Virgil’s credit, he kept pace with us, even being in his space cadet robot mode. Between whatever experience he had, what this realm was doing to him, and the geas he was under, we stopped wondering. He was do or die and ready to rock.

The hardest part of the climb was the damned gas masks. None of us could see or breath for shit as we climbed foot by foot. But the higher we went, the more spores we saw, floating down like black snow.

The tiniest root of Yggdrasil we passed by rendered itself in my vision as a massive redwood like the ones they shot the Ewok village in. Only this redwood was sideways and snaked along the rock with an aura of power that pierced the black and the storm that raged.

When we reached the lip of the cliff, I held out a hand for us to slow. We all lined up so that we could get over together and looked to one another.

We moved together and peaked over the rim to scout our quarry.

The Draugr’s Cairn was a small valley with several trees growing from the Yggdrasil roots running through its center. On the first tree, we found Erik Laufey. He had been crucified, but was still alive.

Behind Erik was the distinctive black wood of the tree of Sebassis. Our target.

But, we didn’t see the figure above us until he took a big step on top of us. His foot landed next to my hand and I froze in place.

A leather boot covered in mold held up a frost giant in the robes of a shaman. In his outstretched hand was a staff of black wood not unlike the tree before us. The staff was covered in the same black mold.

Fulvrag stared over the Jotunheim past us with certain eyes. He wasn’t infected. He was a willing participant. A collaborator with the powers that used the mold as a vector to create the zombies.

None of us dared moved because only one thing kept us from being noticed. Fulvrag was well-fed. His stomach extended out so far, it blocked us from his eyes. He couldn’t see us if he couldn’t see his own feet.

Fuck me…



Book 10: Chapter 04

Dresden Files Accelerated: Emerald City: Requiem HumAnnoyd